Ed Stetzer wrote an article today called “How Do We Get at Effective Outreach?” The article got me thinking about the ways we go about outreach and what may need to change.
Stetzer points out that our culture has changed and continues to change. We have seen a huge increase in the non-religiously affiliated people – who Stetzer calls “Nones”. Our culture is also continually getting dominated by secular thinking which increasingly seeks to marginalize people who hold traditional Christian values. Lastly, Religious Pluralism has created a culture of relative truth – no one faith is better than another.
How do we reach a culture plagued by these issues with the Gospel? Stetzer’s solution is 3-fold:
- Shift from a temple to a network mindset. This means not focusing only on bringing outreach to church, but bringing the Gospel to your local network (family, work, school, etc.)
- Shift from an attractional mindset to an incarnational mindset. The focus should not be bringing people to the holy place – our lives should be characterized by holiness. In other words, the way we live our everyday lives should be impactful to those around us.
- Shift from a traditional church form to an innovative one. this involves re-thinking the old ways of doing “church” that may exist simply because “it’s the way we’ve always done it.”
Read Stetzer’s full article to get a more complete breakdown of these. Below are some applications I drew out of Stetzers’ article for my church:
- Are you equipped to share the gospel with your friends and co-workers? Or do you rely on other people to do the work of actually sharing the Gospel for you? If this is a struggle for you, a great place to start is learning how to share your personal testimony – commit this to memory. From there, you can start getting equipped in your small group or discipleship relationship to become a worker who can competently share the truth of the Gospel message. If this is a struggle for you, talk to those in ministry working with you about it.
- What are your group’s avenues for reaching the lost? Do you just rely on bringing them to the big meeting? Consider starting a seeker friendly small group where people are free to discuss their beliefs. Plan a weekly outreach-friendly dinner party or event that is non-threatening. In early college, my friends and I used to hold a weekly “Essential Classic Movie Night” that became the perfect place to invite outreach to for the first time. Here, they could make some new friends, and they became much more likely to attend a large meeting once they felt they knew the people in it.
- True character is who you are when no one else is around. Are you one person around your church friends and another person completely around your friends in school/family/co-workers? If you know Jesus, this person should never change. There should be major differences in the way you go about life and the way people in our secular culture go about life. Can those around you see the difference in you? Do they notice your joy and hope? If they do see that in you, it will naturally make them curious wanting to know what makes you different. One example is to always be the person that people can come to to talk about their problems and anxieties. Be a good listener.
- In what ways could we innovate to engage our culture better to reach the lost? Perhaps there are community events we could sign up to help organize. What volunteer opportunities are there that could put us in touch with non-Christians? Here is an excellent opportunity to step up and be a leader – lead the charge in a new outreach opportunity.
- Are you quick to complain about the way we do church, or are you quick to help? Nothing kills the drive to do effective ministry quicker than a group of grumblers. Rather than grumble, find a way to help. There are always things we, as a church, can do differently. Be the change you want to see.